Breast Cancer Awareness: Happy Birthday To Me!

Today, I turn 37. As my birthday gift to myself, I am allowing myself to ramble πŸ™‚

When I was in my late 20s and starting to get fit, people who were roughly my age now told me to wait until I was their age β€” then I would understand.

Now, creeping into my late 30s, people ten years older still tell me to wait until I’m their age β€” then I’ll understand.

This is what I understand:Β those people have given up. They are blaming on age what is mainly a lifestyle problem.

I grew up eating crap. Even most home-cooked meals were skewed towards meat and heavily skewed towards highly processed crappy (delicious) carbs. We ate a lot of fast food. We watched a lot of TV. I was always chubby.Β You can’t say that I’ve just always eaten like this or grew up active.

In college, with the freedom to eat as I so chose β€” and a local dairy with $1 homemade ice cream pints β€” it only got worse. My slightly “big-boned” body got really fat. I loved all types of sweets. I believe I’ve been quoted as saying that “I don’t eat all that healthy shit.”Β You can’t say I don’t understand having a sweet tooth or a love of everything fried.

I changed slowly. What I fueled myself with started to look different. I joined a gym and read books on stationary bikes when I had free time. Then I started to spin. And take other classes. I started to feel better and look better, and I was hooked.

After finally hitting a healthy weight, having a body that didn’t jiggle, being strong, I was diagnosed with cancer.

I had five invasive procedures (three with anaesthetics), six months of chemotherapy, along with a six-month cocktail of other drugs, nearly a month of radiation. The cancer was decimated, and so was the rest of my body.

I started to eat well and exercise again. I started to reshape myself. You can’t say I’ve never started over.

Most breast cancers β€” indeed, most any cancers β€” can be prevented by taking care of yourself. Eat well, exercise often, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke.

(As an aside: I mean a real healthy weight, not an American healthy weight, which, according to most of us, is at least 15-20 pounds over.Β Most people are in denial about their body and about their diet. I have had people telling me I am “skinny” since I was about three weeks postpartum. Nowhere close to skinny. While I’m not a huge fan of BMI, it is a decent indicator of some health measures for the average Joe.Β My BMI is too high. People look at me and scoff, saying that BMI must be wrong if mine is too high. No β€” you’re just used to looking at really fat people. I’m less fat, so I look thin. You also know that I eat a fairly healthy diet and exercise regularly, which skews your vision. And, in some cases, just because I’m less fat than you are doesn’t make me a healthy weight.)

Post-cancer, I completed three sprint triathlons. The first one was amazing. My pride in training and completing it has been rivaled only once in my lifetime (see: senior recital). My body was getting stronger, and then…

I got pregnant. Most of the time, I didn’t go crazy on junk food. (Ladies, this is the time in your life when, more than ever, you need to eat well!) But there were weeks at a time when it seemed I couldn’t possibly feel full. I ate half of a large pizza one night and wasn’t stuffed. That is crazy. I know growing a fetus requires more fuel, but not that much!

Also, while pregnant, my body was tired. A three-mile bike ride took about half an hour and was exhausting. No exercise for six weeks postpartum, and then I climbed back on the wagon. Again.

I’m getting closer to my pre-pregnancy body … and then I’ll be continuing to work towards my pre-chemo body. It takes time, it takes diligence, it takes patience, it takes support.

There is nothing special about me that makes it possible for me to work to be healthy. It’s something that is important to me, so I do it. It is simple. It is not easy.

Assuming it is easy for other people is just your internal attempt to let yourself off the hook.

Make yourself accountable. Today. Now. Do it. You’ll be glad you did.

While I am in spin class, pushing myself as hard as I can on a bike that’s not getting me anywhere, this is my mantra:

You can use it if you want. Or make your own. Just make it positive πŸ™‚

When I turned 27, I was not inspiring.

Today, I have had many people tell me I have inspired them to change their lives. I have been witness to them do it. I have heard celebrations of how many pushups I can do, how long I can hold a plank, how I wasn’t tempted by some crap food that used to appeal, how my old pants fit again, how I haven’t been this size in 2/8/20 years. And now they inspire others.

You owe it to yourself and to the people around you to take care of yourself and be a beacon of hope and inspiration in your community.

Who are you going to inspire?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Happy birthday to you, and it’s always amazing coming across people that have battled, and overcome, some serious obstacles:)

  2. Posted by Connie Garcia on 14 October 2012 at 14:42

    Well said Heather!

  3. Posted by Ilana on 14 October 2012 at 15:45

    Happy Birthday, Heat. You are an inspiration.

  4. Happy Birthday, Heather. I remember those $1 ice cream pints. I, too, started working out a few years ago and it’s changed my life (and requirement for medications). Congrats on all your successes.

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